November Book Reviews (Part Two)

Wishing you all a wonderful winter as we head toward the solstice and the return of the light. I’m finishing off autumn with more books and reviews from November! I hope you find a few to enjoy over the holidays.

To all my blogger friends in the southern hemisphere… have a wonderful start to your summer, and I hope you find some beach reads!

November’s reviews (part two) include my 4 and 5-star reads of a romance/thriller mash-up, paranormal short stories, fantasy, and a children’s book.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Secrets, Lies & Alibis (Wounded Hearts, Book 8) by Jacquie Biggar

I can’t believe I’ve finished Book 8 of the Wounded Hearts romance/thriller series. Now that I’m caught up, I’m ready for Book 9 whenever it hits the press. Each of the books features one member of a Seal team that’s returned to civilian life. They’re a close-knit group and characters overlap as they need each other’s help.

In this book, the focus is Adam, who now works for the DEA, and his ex-boss/ex-lover Amanda, who took a demotion and transfer because she’s pregnant. She’s working behind the scenes to wrap up a big drug case, and the cartel would like to see her eliminated. Adam has a new perky partner and is following leads. As things heat up, they all end up in Texas where Adam will risk his life to close the case, and Amanda will have one big surprise to share with him.

The plot holds together well and the characters are distinct and consistent. Though the books can easily be read as stand-alones, I liked reading them in order, tracking the course of the over-arching investigation, and learning how the familiar characters’ lives are going. The book has plenty of romantic drama, but it’s evenly balanced with action and danger, which kept me flipping pages. I read this 2-hour story in one sitting. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy romance/action mash-ups and getting to know characters over a long series. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

In this stand-alone fantasy, Mer is in hiding. She’s the last of the water diviners who once served the realm’s cruel prince. He used her skills to find the wells of his enemies, which he poisoned, killing hundreds of men, women, and children. On the verge of capture, she’s rescued by Renfrew, her handler while in the realm’s employ. No longer beholden to the prince, Renfrew enlists her in a daring heist of treasure that will guarantee her freedom and a comfortable life. How can she resist?

The heist requires assembling a team to destroy the wellspring that protects the prince’s land and where untold treasure is hidden. The journey and magical traps provide plenty of danger, but even more compelling were the secrets and hidden agendas of each character who joins the party.

I particularly liked Mer and Fane, the cursed fighter enlisted to kill the magical boar that protects the wellspring. Their distrust of each other is balanced by their tenuous loyalty. There are hints of a romance that can never be, and that possibility kept me rooting for them. Renfrew and Ifanna, a master thief, were the most distinct and interesting of the secondary characters.

The pace moves along, and there are twists and surprises throughout. The plot tracks well, and the magic was engaging. I’d definitely read more of this author’s work. Highly recommended to fantasy readers.

*****

The Christmas Bird by Robbie Cheadle

After the family dogs destroy a bird’s nest, Stella and her younger sisters discover a surviving Hoopoe chick that they take into their care and raise in a basket. As the bird grows, the sisters must come to grips with the nature of the bird to fly free and start a family of its own. What feels, at first, like a loss becomes a celebration.

Themes of kindness and honoring nature and wild creatures take the forefront of this gentle novelette. The pace moves well and the characters are endearing. In style, the story reminded me of Laura Ingalls’s Little House on the Prairie books. Under an hour’s read, it’s appropriate for young children and middle-grade readers. Highly recommended. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

The Raven Spell (Book 1) by Luanne G. Smith

I enjoyed the lyrical writing and wonderful world-building of Smith’s The Vine Witch and was delighted to discover Book One of a completed duology. It’s fantasy and magical realism, the story taking place in 19th century London, where witches and magic are an accepted part of society.

Edwina and her sister Mary are witches who scour the riverbanks for trinkets that they sell in their shop. Mary also collects “corpse lights” the vibrant, shining memories of the newly deceased. Her fetish takes her to hospitals and morgues, as well as to scenes of murder.

When she takes the memories of a private investigator (Ian) who ends up surviving his attack, Edwina attempts to restore them, setting off an investigation that entangles both sisters in a mysterious disappearance and a string of murders.

I enjoyed everything about this book – the solid plot, the quick pace, the twists and slow reveals. The magic is great fun and includes some comic relief provided by a small hairy hearth elf who’s aligned with Ian. There’s also danger and tragedy and a touch of romance. The characters had me rooting for them, particularly Edwina who has some difficult truths to face.

I’m eager to dive into Book Two. Highly recommended to readers of fantasy and magical realism who love beautiful writing. (Kindle Unlimited).

(Note: I did read Book 2, The Raven Song, but struggled with it. My review is here: Something to consider if you’re interested in Book 1.)

*****

The Last Sun Born by Kate Frantz

In a land where only those born beneath the moon are allowed to live, Lewel enters the world during the day. Her infant life is spared at great risk, for with the sun-born comes a dark force called the Absence, capable of destroying the kingdom. And only she can kill it, a battle that may very well demand her life.

Veigo, the king-in-waiting, and his advisor Marrlen, an old woman with the power to cast magic, know the truth of her birth and begin training Lewel to face the Absence. Veigo and Marrlen grow fond of her, and she of them, but intrigue and deception and hatred of her kind run rampant. As a reader, I didn’t know who to trust.

The world-building in this book shines, and I liked the concept of the Absence – the evil twin of the sun born. The characters were complex and nuanced. Lewel and Veigo had fully realized personalities, and their relationship felt genuine to me. I particularly appreciated the way Veigo struggled with his feelings toward Lewel and his duty to the kingdom.

The pace moves along, and the magical elements worked well with the plot. From the description, there’s no indication that there will be a second book, but this one ends on a huge cliffhanger with very few plot lines resolved, so I think it’s a good guess. I suspect it will be worth the read. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

Hildie: At the Ghost Shore by Paula Cappa

This 15-minute read includes two short stories: “Hildie” and “Abasteron House.” I thoroughly enjoyed both haunting stories and wanted more of this author’s work the moment I finished. The prose is beautiful and atmospheric, exactly the kind of writing I enjoy.

“Hildie” is a mesmerizing and magical tale with a folklore feel to it. Hildie is a young woman who reads runes, and one day an old man comes seeking information about his daughter. The end is a touching surprise.

“Abasteron House” is where Davida lives with her grandfather. Each day, he walks the dunes alone, his vision peopled with angels that she can’t see. When he dies, she takes over the house and meets his dream people, and they aren’t what she expected.

Highly recommended for dark fantasy and speculative fiction readers looking to fill a few minutes with beautifully written and riveting stories

*****

Between the Darkness and the Dawn by Paula Cappa

In this beautifully written short story, Edward Fane is an employee of the Institute of Perceptual Studies, and he’s traveled to Massachusetts with his instruments to measure ley lines that connect past and future realms. He books a tour of an old manse once inhabited by Nathanial Hawthorne but it’s what he feels as he gazes through the window on the Old North Bridge that captures his attention. On that bridge, he meets the past, and though Nathaniel warns him away from his pursuits, can he forget the lovely woman he meets there? Highly recommended to fans of short stories who enjoy atmospheric writing, and haunting tales.

*****

Happy Reading!

Fairies, Myths, & Magic II, Book 2: A Winter Celebration

Greetings, Readers, One and All.

Welcome to the launch of Colleen Chesebro’s new book, a celebration of the winter season’s Fairies, Myths, & Magic. She’s the head poetess over at Word Craft Poetry (her blog), and she’s put me in the mood for a mug of eggnog, a sprig of mistletoe, and a warm fire. I have a review of her book below, but first, I’m turning the post over to Colleen.

Day One: 12/1/22 Yule Blessings Book Tour

Thank you, Diana, for the opportunity to share the news of my new book, just in time for the winter solstice and Yule.

In Fairies, Myths, & Magic II, I researched the mythologies of Yule and the winter solstice. I was surprised to learn how almost all cultures featured a myth about Yule and the winter solstice.

In the northern hemisphere, the date falls on December 21st or 22nd. In the southern hemisphere, the dates are June 20th or 21st. The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the day with the least amount of daylight, giving us the longest and darkest night of the year on December 21st.

In the Pagan tradition, the winter solstice represented the figurative death and rebirth of the sun. Yule became a time of great celebration because the people realized spring would bring warmth back to the land.

Did you know there were many female figures of Yule and winter? Many of these women are long forgotten. There’s the Irish Goddess of Winter – The Cailleach Béara, The Night of the Mothers, Frau Holle, and many others. I share their stories through short stories and poetry.

Here’s one of my favorite myths featuring Frau Holle. The wild hunt was a way to explain the wicked storms of winter. Odin bears a resemblance to our Santa Claus and could have been the inspiration for the jolly old soul.

The Wild Hunt

Call down the huntsmen,

upon black horses they ride

with hounds as black as pitch

and staring hideous eyes

their screams and howls

resound against the algid night.

*

Odin’s phantoms—the cult of the dead

glide through the ebony sky

a spectral, nocturnal horde

howling on the wind,

Frau Holle riding high.

*

When the baying winds blow,

and Yule fires are lit

stay away from nightfall

lest you manifest the restless dead.

*

Beware the berserkers…

for the host of wild souls will sweep down

and drag you to your death!

___

Prepare to embrace the darkness and the light in Fairies, Myths, & Magic II.

Colleen’s Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Colleen-M-Chesebro/e/B01N9MV2RX

Amazon Universal Link: https://mybook.to/FairiesMythsMagicII

About the Book

In this second book in the Fairies, Myths, & Magic series, step into a world where dark fairies and other magical beings converge in a collection of poetry and short stories inspired by winter and the celebration of the winter solstice.

From autumn’s scary fairies to the forgotten female characters of Yule, prepare to embrace the magical winter solstice myths from around the world. Meet Frau Holle in the Wild Hunt, Befana—the Christmas Witch of Italy, and the Japanese goddess Ameratasu who controls the springtime. Prepare to embrace the Scottish trows, the Irish Goddess of Winter—the Cailleach Béara, and Snegurochka—the Snow Girl.

Learn how to make Yuletide rituals part of your celebration by embracing the symbols of Yule by decorating with evergreens and crystals.

My Review:

A celebration of winter is a great description of this highly recommended collection of poetry and short fiction. It’s the companion to the first book “Fairies, Myths, & Magic: A Summer Celebration,” which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Chesebro explores winter legends from around the world, from pagan creatures who steal naughty children in the night to mischievous house elves. From the wild hunt to the origins of traditions such as yule logs, holly, and Father Christmas. The book offers explanatory introductions to winter’s fairies and myths and brings them to life with syllabic poetry and flash fiction.

A few of the legends that struck my fancy were “Ameratasu” from Japan, “Gryla, the Christmas Troll” from Iceland, and “Snegurochka – Snow Girl” from Russia. Some of my favorite stories were “Tomte, the House Elf” and “The Long Walk.”

Chesebro’s syllabic poetry shines, full of beauty, humor, nature, and magic both delightful and haunting. Written in multiple forms and replete with beautiful imagery, it was the highlight of the book for me. A few favorite poems were “Lady Autumn,” “The Wild Hunt,” “Happy Dongzhi Festival,” “Swift Passage,” and “Dreaming.”

Dreaming

rosy morn, winter kissed—

fields incandescent

bursting with the glory of a brand-new day

the wheel of the year turns

another month gone

from the sun’s fiery glow

lilac shadows fade

while frost browned grasses

sing anthems to the wind

wild black-headed geese soar

far away from home

beneath the frosty rime

roots tremble with growth,

awaiting the thaw and the

warm rains to come

seeds loiter in the depths

dreaming of the spring

About the Author:

An avid reader, Colleen M. Chesebro rekindled her love of writing poetry after years spent working in the accounting industry. These days, she loves crafting syllabic poetry, flash fiction, and creative fiction and nonfiction.

In addition to poetry books, Chesebro’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of her writing community on Word Craft Poetry.com by organizing and sponsoring a weekly syllabic poetry challenge, called #TankaTuesday, where participants experiment with traditional and current forms of Japanese and American syllabic poetry.

Chesebro is an assistant editor of The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology & Gitty Up Press, a micro-press founded by Charli Mills and Carrot Ranch.

In January 2022, Colleen founded Unicorn Cats Publishing Services to assist poets and authors in creating eBooks and print books for publication. In addition, she creates affordable book covers for Kindle and print books.

Chesebro lives in the house of her dreams in mid-Michigan surrounded by the Great Lakes with her husband and two (unicorn) cats, Chloe & Sophie.

Find Colleen here:

Blog: Word Craft Poetry: https://wordcraftpoetry.com

Author Blog: Colleen M. Chesebro, Author, Poet & Unicorn Cats Publishing Services: https://colleenmchesebro.com

Facebook Page: Colleen M. Chesebro, Poet & Author: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100085941528913

LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/colleen-m-chesebro-6b856b237

November Book Reviews (Part One)

The holiday season has started. It’s a great time to take breaks from the chaos and snuggle up with a book. And, of course, books make great gifts!

Somehow, I read 14 books this month. They just got away from me, and it’s too many for one post. So here are half of them!

November’s reviews (part one) include my 4 and 5-star reads of a poetry/flash fiction collection, a psychological thriller, a horror novelette, a paranormal thriller, a murder mystery, and two illustrated children’s books.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Variety is the Spice of Life by Sally Cronin

I’m a fan of Cronin’s syllabic poetry, flash fiction, and short stories, and this latest collection is an excellent example of why. The first half of the book is filled with 38 beautiful poems in a variety of structured forms.

Many of the poems are poignant reflections on love and loss, the wonder of life, and the beauty of nature found in her garden. Each includes a complementary image. One of my favorites:

Rejection (form: a butterfly cinquain)

silence
magnifies time
and distance between us
and your rejection leaves my heart
hollow.
the promises we made that day
are scattered in the wind
and dreams have turned
to dust.

The second half of the book is comprised of 8 short stories, most of them heartwarming tales of human kindness, forgiveness, and redemption. (With a tale of magical murder thrown in). Three of my favorites were Miss Lloyd’s Robin, The Green Hill, and The Home Help. I highly recommend this afternoon’s read to fans of syllabic poetry and short stories.

*****

The Bubble Reputation by Alex Craigie

Social media is a wonderful way to connect with family and friends, but most people know that it has a dark side as a vehicle for bullying, making threats, and spreading lies. Emmie is a highly successful children’s author, until a jealous coworker and a tabloid needing a tasty scoop decide she’d make a great target for a scandal. A lie and a doctored photograph start off a social media storm that picks up momentum with frightening speed. As the feeding frenzy intensifies, it nearly costs her everything. And I mean everything.

There are a whole lot of things that are frightening about this story. The plot is highly plausible, and though I could see the escalation coming, it was still horrifying to watch. The way ordinary citizens start going for blood is not only shocking but terrifyingly realistic. It’s a situation that not every character finds their way out of without a heavy toll.

This isn’t a long book, and I read it in one afternoon, glued to the story. The pace moves quickly and there are a wide variety of authentic characters—some heartless and calculating, some risk-avoidant, some bloodthirsty, and others highly supportive. There are a lot of takeaways from this read, particularly a chance to decide which type of character we want to be. Highly recommended. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

Dog Meat by Priscilla Bettis

This is one of the more unusual novelettes I’ve read in years, and I needed to spend a few days processing it before I could write a review.

According to the author, “30 million dogs die each year in the brutal trade that operates in nine countries.” In this story, Kalb Ward’s job is to kill the dogs that will be served to a restaurant’s wealthy diners.

Ward lives in a closed dystopian society where he has no choice in what kind of work he performs, and his one attempt to run away lands him in a reeducation camp for 18 months. Only threats to his mother’s life are powerful enough to return him to the job he can’t tolerate.

Ward sees himself as a killer, and his reactions to the endless violence move this book beyond the horror genre into one that explores the impact of intolerable guilt, brutality, and despair on a human life and soul. This is a society without empathy, where compassion and kindness can’t find a foothold.

The scenes are horrific, and anyone who loves dogs will be tested to the core. Like the author, I hope this story raises awareness and supports the end of this cruel industry. The writing quality is excellent, and Ward’s plight drew me deeply into this well-wrought world. Highly recommended, but with a big trigger warning about graphic violence against animals.

*****

The Valley Walker by T. W. Dittmer

This impressive book certainly captured my attention. Teri Altro is part of a government task force looking into a rash of drug deaths in Michigan. She’s competent, hard-shelled, and a bit of a rogue. She’s also the target of an attempted assassination. But as three men close in on her, someone gets in the way, and in a strange manipulation of reality, the three killers end up dead. That someone is John Walker Michaels, a Vietnam deserter who shouldn’t exist, and who possesses the mystical powers of the Hmong people that became his family. The Laotians call him the Valley Walker.

What follows is an investigation into the drug deaths that extends from the streets and governing halls of Michigan to the jungles of Laos, from the present time back to the dark days of the Viet Nam war. The scenes of war are eerily visceral, reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. The Laotian mysticism adds an otherworldly surrealism that connects the timelines.

Characterization is impressive with each member of the task force wonderfully unique. Peripheral characters are also fully realized and distinct. Though Michaels participates in the multiple POVs, he retains his mysterious aura, and it’s through his relationships with other characters and his dialog and action that I came to understand him.

The author served in Viet Nam and the authenticity he brought to the story was riveting. It also didn’t hurt that his writing is polished and well-paced with just the right amount of description. A complex plot comes together with little difficulty and several twists kept me on my toes. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy complex stories about war, power, and justice, topped with a metaphysical twist. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

Flower Power Trip (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 3) by James J. Cudney

This is Book 3 in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, and for readers who’ve enjoyed the first two in the series, this one was just as fun. When a renowned biologist ends up dead at a masquerade ball at Braxton College, Professor Kellan Ayrwick is once again unofficially asking questions and trying to ferret out the murderer. Some of the people close to him are suspects, and there are plenty of secrets to untangle. And then there are the postcards he’s receiving from his dead wife.

As with previous books, Kellan’s relationship with Sheriff April Montague was delightfully snarky, and I just adored their growing respect for each other. Wise-cracking, take no nonsense, Nana D is also back, and she’s a hoot. There are a lot of characters in this series. Having read the previous two books, I had the advantage of knowing a number of them already. For this reason alone, I recommend starting the series at the beginning.

The pace moves quickly, and plenty of red herrings point in multiple directions. I couldn’t guess the identity of the killer and had to wait for the reveal for everything to sort out. Though the masquerade murder is fully solved, a cliffhanger is introduced at the very end as a hook for the next book. Readers will find a likable protagonist, some fully-realized and fun secondary characters, and plenty of twists and turns. Recommended to fans of cozy mystery series.

*****

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles by Mike Allegra

The more I learn about capybaras, the more I want to cuddle with them. This book might come as close to the real thing as I get. A rainforest is a noisy place. So noisy that it’s hard to think and hard to sleep. But then along comes a Cuddly Capy, blowing burbly bubbles and fwippa fwipping its ears. Little by little the Happy Capy convinces the other animals to cuddle, and the rainforest grows quiet. But then who comes out of the swamp? A roaring crocodile! Can a capybara get a crocodile to cuddle? Of course.

A lovely book about the kindness of cuddles and inclusion, and how even the loudest roars and toughest skins can soften with a little loving care. The Happy Capy is single-minded in her love of cuddling and no one can resist. In addition to the fun story, beautiful animal illustrations fill this picture book from front to back. Highly recommended to cuddly preschool kids and their parents. (Hardcover only)

*****

Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra

Everybody’s Favorite Book has to include everybody’s favorite stuff, right? Like spacemen, pirates, pink princesses, cool detective kids, giant guinea pigs, and tea parties. But so much stuff gets to be a little crazy. Everybody’s Favorite Book ends up being nobody’s favorite book… until you get to everybody’s favorite happy ending.

This is a wild, creative, wacky picture book for kids age 3-7 (my guess) and librarians and parents who love big words like gallimaufry and codswallop. This book has everything and, of course, chaos ensues. The illustrations are big, bold, and bright and add to the fun. Kids and the young at heart will enjoy the imaginative mayhem. Highly recommended.

Our local librarian gets two new acquisitions:

*****

Happy Reading!

Talking Turkey

A little fowl fun. Turkey or goose?

While the old birds shopped for Christmas presents, Felix and Mort made their annual Black Friday visit to the local tavern to plan Christmas dinner. They’d taken charge of the cooking years ago, and ever since the first year – when they’d admittedly ruffled a few feathers – the girls happily had left them to it.

They pored over recipes and shared reviews while Phil, the barkeep, kept the bourbon flowing. Felix spread out his clippings and arranged them into piles. “Time to talk turkey.”

Phil leaned on the bar. “Having turkey this year?”

“Goodness no!” Mort shook his head so hard his chin wobbled. “Goose! We always recommend goose.”

Phil raised an eyebrow. “What about Christmas traditions?”

“I’ll have you know, goose has a very long history.” Felix searched for the magazine article. “All the way back to the ancient Egyptians. Did you know that Marco Polo reported seeing geese in China? And Queen Elizabeth ordered that goose be served every Michaelmas in honor of her victory over the Spanish Armada.”

“But what about Ben Franklin?” the barkeep pointed out. “He was a big fan of turkey.”

“A turkey if there ever was one.” The two cooks laughed. “He should have stopped at electricity.”

“Nothing beats goose,” Mort said. “Goose fat has a far better flavor than peanut oil. Some people even save it for cooking. Did you know you can buy pure goose fat on Amazon?”

Phil shook his head. “My wife hates all the grease.”

“Aah…” Felix said, taking Phil under his wing. “But everything about roasted goose tops turkey. The skin is crispy. A goose is juicier than a turkey, and its dark, succulent flesh has a distinctively rich flavor all its own, with just the right amount of gaminess. Most importantly, the meat isn’t dry; it flakes off the bone.”

Mort’s beady eyes turned dreamy. “Alongside the golden goose, I’m thinking airy potato dumplings, red cabbage, and a baked apple with lingonberries. And apple sausage stuffing.”

“And liver paté,” Felix added, waving a recipe like a flag.

Mort sifted through the piles. “Shredded confit! Or we can pack the meat into pastries for deep-fried goose spring rolls.”

Phil replenished their bourbon and slid a recipe from the pile nearest him. “Goose crown pink with celeriac and cranberries. I don’t even know what that means, but it sounds good.”

Felix sighed. “We need to make a decision and get our ducks in a row. How about classic orange and thyme-scented goose? With all Mort’s fixings.”

“Sounds perfect.” Mort beamed. “We should slow-roast for 4-5 hours at 120C. We’ll still get crispy skin, but the breast will stay tender. Then for the last half hour, we’ll turn the temperature up to 220C.”

“You’ve convinced me,” Phil said, topping off their glasses. “I’m trying goose this year.”

“Your wife will love it.” Felix grinned and swayed on his perch. “Oh, my. I’m feeling loose as a goose!” He rested a wing on the bar, holding himself up.

Phil helped them gather up their recipes. “Time for you two turkeys to head home or your gals are going to cook your gooses.”

With a laugh, the two strutted from the bar, wattles wagging and tail feathers fanned. “We did it,” Felix chortled. “Another successful convert.”

“It was easy.” Mort danced a little turkey trot. “He was a sitting duck.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.

And to those who don’t, I wish you a week full of gratefulness, love, and laughter.

Gratefulness, Book Tour, and Winners!

November has been a difficult month. While my book tour continued with its final few stops, my private life was focused on my mother’s failing health, letting her know in myriad ways how much I love her, and saying goodbye. She passed peacefully in the evening after my tour ended.

Some bloggers may wonder why I continued with a book tour when my time with my mother was running out. Honestly, replying to comments only took minutes, and I needed small breaks to gather myself and step outside my growing grief. But there was another reason…

The kindness of this blogging community meant the world to me when I needed it most. Your comments were about a book, yes, but the repeated visits to my tour, the tireless commitment of your time, and your generous support transcended anything so mundane. Though most of us have never met in person, I felt your real-life friendship as if you stood by my side. I’m so grateful.

Now for a little fun

The two-month-long book tour is over. Yay!

You’re probably sick of me and my book, but I needed to take a little more blog space to say thank you (again) to all my hosts, to all the bloggers who took the time to visit the posts, to all the readers who picked up the book, and the kind souls who shared reviews.

I hope that you also found some new blogs to follow and some amazing new books to read! If I’ve stuffed your new year with books, I’ve done my job.

Free Book Trailer

As a thank you for hosting me, I offered to put my 28 hosts’ names in a drawing for a Diana-made book trailer. And the winner of a free book trailer is:

Noelle Granger from Sailing Away

$50 Amazon Gift Card Drawing

Every time a visitor left a comment at one of my tour stops, I recorded their name for a drawing for a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Anyone who commented on multiple posts earned multiple entries.

In total, there were 794 visitors who left 4,133 comments on my hosts’ 28 posts. Phew!

I collected all the names in Excel, snipped them into tiny slips of paper (for two hours), and crumpled them into a jar. For a $50 Amazon gift card, the winner is:

Colleen Chesebro from WordCraft Poetry

***

Congrats to Noelle and Colleen. I’ll be in touch with you both shortly!

Thanks again to everyone in our wonderful village for making this writer’s journey a pure pleasure.

One Final Writing Truth… #1

Go Gently into that Good Night

If you’ve noticed my absence for the past few days, it’s because my dear sweet mother transitioned from this life into the vast and unknowable realm of the spirit. I’ve been her caregiver for the last five years, and it was with loving care that I stroked her face, whispered in her ear, and saw on her way.

Anne Peach 1934-2022

This beautiful poem by Sue Vincent and her accompanying photos speak eloquently of the arc of life as expressed through flowers. She wrote it a couple of years before she too passed with grace from this world. I’d like to share it with you now.

Flowers

by Sue Vincent

There were always flowers.

Orchids pinned upon a mother’s breast,

All lace and diamonds.

Long black gloves

And painted lips,

As she left, laughing.

A child who watched

As the door closed.

There were flowers…

Yellow tulips,

Cellophane and ribbon

A girl who blushed

As the curtain fell

Upon the stage;

She cradled them,

A first bouquet.

There were flowers

Roses and lilies

White, in hands and hair,

Their fragrance mingled

With frankincense,

A ghost of awe and wonder

Finding a home

In memory.

There were flowers…

Rainbow hued,

Everywhere.

Greeting a life newborn,

With love and welcome,

Lighting stark severity

As a babe cried.

There were flowers…

Daisy chains

Around his brow,

Crowning him with sunlight,

In laughter,

In simplicity,

In love.

There were flowers,

Three roses,

Red as life,

Placed in a cold hand,

One for each heart

Saying farewell.

Too long,

Too soon.

There are flowers,

Heather and bluebells

Painting horizons

Still unexplored.

Pathways of petals

Laugh at our feet,

Inviting.

In joy or sorrow,

When the tears fall,

There are always flowers.

From:

Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 28 (Last Stop!)

Welcome to Day 28 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by along the way. I hope you’ve enjoyed:

~ My favorite books from my hosts’ lists, along with my reviews.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter.

~ Leave a comment on any of my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 28, the End of the Line!

D. G. Kaye’s Blog: D. G. Kaye Writer

Debby’s blog is a writer’s resource that occasionally ventures into the happenings in her life. She shares reviews, writer interviews, links to writing tips from all over the blogosphere, and some of her own poetry. Debby is a regular contributor to Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog with a variety of features from travel tips to her more recent discussion of spiritual awareness and personal growth.

Debby writes memoirs about different aspects of her life. From the conflicted relationships she navigated as a child to her journey of self-discovery, to the challenges of aging with those we love. From travel tips to the trials of menopause. Some are hilarious and some are poignant, and all are rich with advice for others facing similar situations.

Since losing the love of her life, Debby’s begun a series of podcasts on the topic of grief. As a previous grief counselor, I can say without hesitation that her podcasts are insightful, honest, moving, and full of gentle wisdom. Anyone interested in learning more about the human journey through grief can start here: Grief, the Real Talk, Episode One.

I’ve read all of Debby’s books. Here’s one of my reviews:

Twenty Years: After “I Do.”

My Review: Twenty years after her vows, author D. G. Kaye, looks back at the lessons learned about love, commitment, and aging. Kaye married a man twenty years her senior, already 58 at the time, and asked him for twenty years (at least) – thus the title of the book.

In a way, this memoir is a tribute to the man she dearly loves, a fact that comes through loud and clear. But it’s also about her journey as a partner, about the hurdles, insights, and growth along the way.

“In sickness and in health” is a major theme as bodies bend to the inevitable challenges of aging. Kaye shares her emotions and thoughts regarding her husband’s illnesses, but also some wisdom about preventative care, advocacy, and the adjustments needed to continue living a full life.

This is a poignant read to be sure, but full of practical advice too about laughter, travel, sex, communication, and preparation for the end of life. Most of all, it’s a memoir about love. An evening’s read and highly recommended.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Debby’s blog: D. G. Kaye Writer.

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Thank you!

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 27 (one more stop to go)

Welcome to Day 27 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 27, here we go!

Noelle Granger’s Blog: Sailing Away

Noelle’s blog is all about books. She shares book reviews as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team as well as from her other reading interests. Her blog is also a place to learn about new releases, catch a short story, or get a glimpse of the goings-on in her life. She shares some extraordinary and fascinating research into the life of the Pilgrims, which resulted in her book: The Last Pilgrim.

I’ve read all of Noelle’s ebooks, which started with the Rhe Brewster murder mysteries series. They were great fun, and I heard there’s another one on the way! As noted above, her interest in colonial New England resulted in a historical fiction novel. Can you imagine my surprise when one of my notorious Peach ancestors got a mention in the book!

The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger

My Review: I just finished this amazing historical fiction, and despite its length (458 pages) I clung to every word. The story chronicles the true events of the Pilgrims’ journey to the New World in 1620, and then continues through 80+ years as the colony struggles for survival and contributes to the growth of a nation. The author deftly weaves two narrative threads from beginning to end: the historical events of the times, and the personal lives of those who lived them, as seen through the eyes of Mary Cushman.

One thread, about 50% of the narrative, focuses on the politics of the time—conflicts between the venture’s investors and the colony, friendships and wars with the Native Americans, and problems with governance, both civil and religious. This is primarily narrated through the eagerly prying ears of Mary Cushman whose family(s) are leaders in the Plymouth colony.

The other 50% of the narrative is Mary’s personal story of growth into a pioneer woman, wife, mother, and grandmother. Mary is 4 years old at the crossing and the book ends when she’s in her eighties. The story is told initially from the perspective of Isaac Allerton, her father, and then gradually shifts to Mary’s point of view alone.

One thing I found enthralling was how “true to the time period” she was in her thoughts and actions while at the same time demonstrating her innate intelligence and will. She’s a lively character, and the connection to her was instantaneous. All of the characters are 3-dimensional and beautifully written, and the themes of friendship, loyalty, faith, love, loss, and family are no different than today.

The author’s research was clearly extensive—of both the actual events and politics of the time but also of the daily lives of men, women, and children. Wonderful details brought the story to life, transporting me smack into the 1600s. This isn’t a glorified tale of colonization. The events are conveyed through the lens of those who made choices for the colony and their families. Some are disturbing to our modern sensibilities, but I thoroughly appreciated the authenticity.

Having grown up in New England, many of the places were familiar and I was captivated by the history. I highly recommend this novel to history buffs and readers of historical fiction.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Noelle’s blog: Sailing Away.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 26 (2 stops to go)

Welcome to Day 26 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 26, here we go!

Gwen Plano’s Blog: Reflections

Gwen’s blog is primarily a poetry blog as she participates in Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday syllabic poetry challenges. Her poetry is beautiful and serene and reflective of her beautiful and serene personality. If you want to take a deep breath and relaxing sigh, it’s a place to visit. Gwen also shares new book releases for fellow bloggers, and she’s a contributor to The Story Empire writer’s blog where she shares her writing experience and tips.

Gwen has written a lovely memoir “Letting Go Into Perfect Love” as well as a military paranormal thriller series that began as a collaboration with author John Howell. I’m two books into the series and can’t wait to dive into the third.

Here’s a review of the first in the series:

The Choice: the unexpected heroes by Gwen Plano

My Review: This is Book Two in the series and it follows two weeks on the heels of Book One, The Contract. The Contract ended with a foiled assassination attempt on the President of the USA from within the government. Global repercussions were avoided, but important lives were lost. The international plot has yet to be investigated and those accountable brought to justice. That’s the focus of this read.

Admiral Joseph Parker is joined by civilian Donna Tucker and Airforce Public Relations employee Jim Andersen at Begert Airforce Base to begin the investigation. A trustworthy team forms and most of the book focuses on tracking down clues and following leads. The investigation is complex but logical and easy to follow.

And it’s not all routine work as the guilty parties are still at large. As the investigation gets closer to discovering the depth and breadth of the conspiracy, anyone with information that might break open the case starts dying. A sense of urgency intensifies as the bodies stack up and the death threats zero in on the team. The third-person present tense POV adds to the sense of immediacy.

I liked all of the characters, particularly the team of protagonists. They’re smart, and they care deeply about what happened and about getting to the truth. Aside from the thrills, there are romantic subplots as well as a paranormal/spiritual element to the story. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, so readers should be prepared to read onward. Highly recommended to fans of military thrillers.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Gwen’s blog: Reflections.

The Necromancer’s Daughter Book Tour: Day 25 (3 stops to go)

Welcome to Day 25 of The Necromancer’s Daughter’s Book Tour!

I hope you enjoy:

~ My favorite book from my host’s list, along with my review.

~ Something from or about The Necromancer’s Daughter (follow the link below).

~ Leave a comment on my hosts’ sites, and your name will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift certificate. The more tour sites, the more entries!

Day 25, here we go!

Audrey Driscoll’s Author Blog

Audrey’s blog alternates between gardening tips (and glimpses of her beautiful flowers), and all sorts of information and tips about writing. She’s a member of Writers Supporting Writers and provides links to the group’s video discussions on different aspects of the craft, covering “topics related to writing, publishing, and everything in between.” She also shares some of her own writing-related projects, short stories, and books.

Audrey’s publishing list includes her popular Herbert West series and a duology set in Egypt that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re an armchair traveler, it’s worth the read for the adventure alone. Here’s my review:

She Who Comes Forth by Audrey Driscoll

My Review: France Leighton and her beloved cello, Eudora, arrive in Luxor, Egypt to take part in an archeological dig. It’s not quite the adventure she expected, but she hangs in there. After a cello performance, she meets the mysterious Adam Dexter, who turns out to be far more than she expected, and not in a good way. Egyptian mythology comes alive as France must find a way to save the world from destruction.

This book is well written, the kind of writing that disappears into the background and therefore leaves the reader fully immersed in the story. I loved the setting, the details about Egypt and its mythology, the elements of the dig, and France’s interest and reverence for the magnificent tombs. In the afterword, Driscoll points out that she’s never been to Luxor, but as a reader, you’d never know it. Her research shines.

Told in first person, the story is wholly France’s. She’s a rich and thoroughly believable character, and her struggles were relatable to me. Secondary characters are beautifully three-dimensional as seen through her eyes. I loved the advice of her “talking” cello and totally fell for the relationship.

The story moves at a moderate pace, a slow burn, with hints at something supernatural at play dropped here and there along the way. At the 75% mark, there’s a giant leap into the paranormal/occult that I wasn’t quite ready for, though in hindsight I could see the preparation. A compelling story that I highly recommend to readers of literary fiction and to those who enjoy a strong female protagonist.

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If you have a chance, head on over to join The Necromancer’s Daughter tour at Audrey’s blog: Audrey Driscoll.